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March 25, 2002

Pete Sampras


THE MODERATOR: Questions for Pete.

Q. Pete, you looked a little sluggish out there, like you were moving a little slow. Any physical ailments?

PETE SAMPRAS: No. It was pretty warm, but physically, I felt fine.

Q. Have trouble with your serve today?

PETE SAMPRAS: No. I didn't serve all that well. You know, I was giving him a lot of looks at some second serves. And the way he was returning and passing, it's tough to serve and volley out there on just about everything - the conditions, when the ball are a little bit heavy. But you have to give him credit. I mean, he played a great match. But I didn't serve all that great. You know, didn't have the rhythm. And, you know, I got off to the start I wanted. Got off to an early break. Didn't get too many first serves for the rest of the set. Lost the breaker. He hit some great shots. You have to give credit where credit is due. He played as well as he could. I didn't play all that well. He's a strong player; no question. He hits the ball very heavy off both sides and he serves pretty well. I think the key of the match was as far as my return of serve, it just didn't make an impact on him. He was starting off the point hitting big forehands. You can't afford to do that out here on this game. I need to work on my return and doing something more with it, having more impact on him instead of just trying to get back in play. That's what happened out there in the second especially.

Q. James is actually the only one from the Davis Cup team who's still on the hunt here. Does that at all affect the team when they show up at Houston, that everybody didn't get too far? Or it's just another week?

PETE SAMPRAS: I think we'd all like to go into Houston, even though it's on grass, for me, Roddick and Todd having played a little bit more, having done better here. But all we can do at this point is start practicing and get on to the grass Sunday or Monday, whenever we get there and just get ready. Would've been nice for me and my confidence going in there playing a little bit better and having won a little bit more this week. But, you know, it's going to start over, and get back to work and have a good week on grass.

Q. You had a lot of titles in the bank. You don't need to prove anything to anybody. Does it make it easier to walk out of here and say, "I have a couple things I need to do like my return, second serve," whatever the case may be. Is that a comfort or a cushion to you?

PETE SAMPRAS: There's no comfort or cushion after getting beat the way I did today. I just have to get back to work. You know, I know that. I need to get in good tennis shape and just get back on the practice court. Sure, I've done a few things over the years. But, yeah, I want to maintain it. I want to continue. I want to get better. And when you play and lose, it doesn't help the confidence. You feel like you take a step back. But, you know, all I can try to do is get back out there and get on the practice court and work on a few things with Jose and really take some time and just get back to work. You know, losing is something I don't ever like. There's no comfort in it. You know, you just have to learn a little bit and get ready for the next week, and that's really it.

Q. Is the work part less fun, more fun or the same as everything?

PETE SAMPRAS: I think practicing, it gets a little tougher as you get a little older. Just I've never been much of a practice player. You know, just, you know, talking to Jose a little bit, I think I'm not someone that's going to be out there four or five hours. I just need to spend two hard hours out there, get quality sessions. As you get older you need to keep it fresh. At least for me, I can't practice every day. I need to play three days, take a day off and whatever. It's tougher as you get a little older. But in order to get better and in order to beat some of these young guys you have to put in the work, and I know that.

Q. Can a guy with 13 Grand Slams have his confidence shaken?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, it can happen. You know, and it's -- I felt like I was playing pretty well coming in here. I was hitting the ball fine all week. Even though I've won some tournaments over the years, I kind of appreciate that and like it, but I don't think about it when I go out and play. It's in the past and I'm just trying to get better from here on out. And, you know, you can't be content; you just have to try and improve and get better. But this wasn't a good day. I got beat. I got outplayed. I got to give him credit. But, you know, just have to get back to work here. And not panic, not -- just look at the big picture here a little bit and look at the rest of the year. It's not the way I wanted it to go this week, but, you know, they got a few more big events coming up here so it's something to look forward to.

Q. Do you think you're playing with the free-swinging freedom you were playing with when you were winning tournaments week after week? Are you more careful with shots?

PETE SAMPRAS: I think the difference now is players are much better. Players are much better than they were five years ago. Playing someone like I played today who hit the ball very well and served very well, it's a little tougher. You can't play conservative out there. You can't expect these guys to miss. I think that happened a little bit today. I kind of tried to get the ball back in play, and he just kind of controlled the match with his pace and with his spin. And, you know, I had a few chances there in the first set, but he, you know, he played a great match. I give him a lot of credit.

Q. Your life right now is probably as balanced as it's ever been. You have this life outside of tennis. I was wondering, does that in some ways make it tougher on the tennis? When you were No. 1 all those years, you had that single-minded focus on it. In a weird way, does having a well-balanced life make it difficult to do what you want to do tennis-wise?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, it's a good question. I mean, the years that I was No. 1, I was probably a little bit too consumed with the sport. It's hard to say how really happy I was. I was happy winning tournaments. But in order to stay up there for as long as I did, it took a lot of sacrifice. You know, those days are over. I've lost enough hair over the years to, you know, all the worries and all the stress that I put on myself. Now, sure, I'm at a different stage in my life. I still want to, you know, get back to winning some Slams and contending for majors. And that's where I'm at. These weeks are important weeks. You need to do well at these events. All the top players are playing here, to go into the Slams with an aura, which I had five years ago more than today. So that's the difference. But, yeah, I'm very happy as a tennis player. I'm married and things couldn't be better. I just wish I could be playing a little bit better. But that will come sometime this year.

Q. Pete, could you compare your game now to several years ago.

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, I just think my game is still there. I think the competition has gotten tougher. I think guys are hitting the ball a little bit harder. Hitting the ball a little bit better. You know, and playing someone like the guy I played today, I've never seen him play. So it was kind of a little unsettling whenever I play someone I've never seen play. But the game's still there. I just need to, you know, get in some good tennis shape and get back on the practice court and put the time into it. That's what I've been trying to do here, but it's not going to happen overnight. It could take a little bit of time. I'm patient, but, you know, I want to get back to winning some titles.

Q. Richard Krajicek is still trying to come back in tennis. What do you think his place is in tennis history?

PETE SAMPRAS: I think Richard's someone that is one of the biggest games in -- biggest serves, second serve in the game. He's put it all together at Wimbledon. Someone that's given me a lot of problems over the years, and just had an overwhelming game when he was on. I mean, really had all the tools and moved well for a big guy. He was a great player.

End of FastScripts….

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